RABBI Alan Plancey, above, recently appointed Mayor of the English town of Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, is suing two local borough councillors who accused him of using ‘homophobic language’ in a 2014 video.
Jewish News reports that Plancey, a Conservative Party member, brought a lawsuit against Christian Gray and Chris Myers, alleging they had defamed him by labeling him “prejudiced.”
In response, Gray and Myers, gay members of the Labour Party, launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise funds to fight the case.
JustGiving says that the pair are “wrongfully” being sued for defamation after raising awareness of Plancey’s use of homophobic language.
The crowdfunder says Gray and Myers were recently contacted by a distressed young gay Jewish man about the 2014 video in which Plancey makes “what appeared to be openly homophobic remarks.” He was extremely disturbed by the comments, which the two councillors believe:
Are simply not acceptable in a modern, pluralistic society, especially from an elected official in a position of power.
Once brought to the Labour Group’s attention that the Tories planned to install Plancey as Mayor, all six Labour Councillors signed an open letter raising concerns and seeking clarifications.
The First Citizen of the Borough requires an individual who has the trust and confidence of our diverse community. Electing anyone who uses language that appears designed to insult the LGBTQ+ community cannot be acceptable.
Gray and Myers, above, said that, while Hertsmere Labour will be contributing to the costs of fighting this legal action, their funds are limited – “unlike the Tories who can afford expensive lawyers.”
So, what’s with Plancy? Is he really homophobic?
After he was installed as Mayor on November 18, PinkNews reported that Plancy insisted in the video interview that the LGBT+ community needs to be “quiet” and “unobtrusive” if they want to be accepted, and that gays can only be respected if they don’t have sex.
We cannot change that which is written in the Torah … Because of whims and fancies we can’t just decide we’ll take one bit out, one not out. If something is fashionable today and it wasn’t fashionable 1,000 years ago, does it make it a permitted action?
Homosexuality, lesbian, etc, is not permitted in Jewish law.
I think the demonstrations that are coming out today for acceptance of minority rule is completely wrong. You get more acceptance and more love if you do it quietly and unobtrusively, you’ll be accepted more in society.
He explained that if a gay person or a lesbian asked him to respect them, he would say:
Yes, I will respect you, provided that you don’t insist that I accept your actions as permitted.
When it became clear that the Tory Orthodox rabbi would be appointed mayor, a group of Hertsmere Labour borough councillors – including Chris Myers and Christian Gray – sent him a letter asking him to step down.
Imagine for a moment replacing ‘LGBTQ+’ with any other group with protected characteristics under the Equality Act. Ask yourself how acceptable it would be to suggest that just they ‘be quiet’ so they are accepted?
Additionally, you suggest that being LGBTQ+ is a lifestyle choice, which again is wholly inaccurate. This fact is accepted by many religious leaders including growing numbers of Orthodox rabbis.
We fully accept your right to express your own religious views. We actively fight to ensure that people of all faiths can freely express their beliefs.
However, your interview goes much further. It does not walk the fine line. It crosses it and explicitly enters the territory of homophobic statements.
But Plancey, who in 2011 hit out marriage equality and insisted it was “a shame that the standards of morality seem to be dropping all the time”, refused to step down.
In a BBC Three Counties “car crash” interview, his first since being appointed mayor, the Tory councillor chose not to use the opportunity to reassure the LGBT+ community, insisting instead that in the 2014 video he was “quoting the Torah”, and declared:
Nobody can turn around to me and say I’m homophobic.
But when asked if he would like to clarify his views on LGBT+ people, he said:
I don’t like demonstrations, I don’t like people coming out and putting up flags because they’re more important than anybody else, they’re not.
A Hertsmere Labour spokesperson told Jewish News:
Following Mayor Plancey’s decision to take legal action for defamation against our two gay Labour councillors, we felt that funds were needed to contest the action.
We are so very grateful to the people who have supported our councillors and are thrilled that £2,000 was raised in the first 24 hours. Homophobic language must not go unchallenged.
Jeremy Newmark, an orthodox Jewish councillor who is leader of the Labour Group on Hertsmere Council, said:
I believe there is no place for homophobic language in public life. I believe it was entirely legitimate for councillors to ask the Mayor to clarify his views before he was elected. I firmly believe it is still not too late for him to do so.
But the Tory leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, Cllr Morris Bright, insisted:
The Conservative group were very clear that he should not feel coerced in to stepping back.